Visibility and Accountability Beyond the Holtzclaw Verdict: Confronting the Sexual Abuse of Black Women by the Police

The day of accountability is coming soon for Holtzclaw -- the former Oklahoma City Police Officer will be sentenced on January 21, 2016 following his conviction last month of 18 of 36 counts of sexual assault. Holtzclaw’s preying on Black women in the course of duty came to light only after Jannie Ligons, a 57-year-old grandmother, reported the crime to the police. 12 more Black women told similar stories of being violated by Holtzclaw. 

But Holtzclaw’s sentencing cannot be the sole focus of our efforts for justice. We must look beyond the verdict and focus on the intersections of race, gender, class, substance dependency and system-involvement that rendered the OKC 13 prey to a rapist with a badge. Countless Black women will continue to be vulnerable to sexual abuse by police even if Holtzclaw receives a life sentence. 

Daniel Holtzclaw was not an anomaly. Approximately 1,000 officers lost their badges in a six-year period after having engaged in some form of sexual misconduct. And this is a gross undercounting of how many officers engage in such conduct. Few know that sexual misconduct is the second most reported form of police abuse because it is rarely addressed by the media and within our movements against sexual violence and police abuse. 

We have to make this all-too-common form of police abuse visible. 

Let’s join together to combat the intersectional erasure of victims of state violence and rape. 

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